The Coming Food Crisis: Blame Ethanol?
A series of spikes in global food prices resulted in riots in 2008 and contributed to violent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. The culprit is a matter of considerable and frequently heated debate, but the most commonly cited candidates include market speculators, global warming and aggressive government renewable fuel mandates.
If you believe the folks at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Mass., the global food supply system is stumbling into a drought-induced supply shortage that could galvanize a global food crisis far more severe than those implicated in the widespread uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
In an updated version of a paper first published in September, Marco Lagi, Yavni Bar-Yam and Yaneer Bar-Yam considered the possible consequences of the prolonged drought in the mid-western United States, the worst in half a century, on global food prices. The analysis, which relied on a quantitative model of historical food prices, concluded that the drought could amplify the impact of market speculation and corn-to-ethanol conversion policies on the impending global food crisis by an order of magnitude.